Some of you may be able to buy sterling silver wire locally, but for most jewelry makers, there are no wholesale distributors in your area. Even if there are, you never know if you're getting the best price for wholesale sterling silver wire until you check online.
The first advantage to checking online when you shop for jewelry wire is being able to check the metal markets. The price of silver moves gradually. You can watch it go down and up over the course of days. Do that. Time your silver wire purchase for the times the prices is headed downward. Don't wait for it to start on an upsurge, or by the time you get the order shipped, the prices may have gone up significantly.
Wholesale sterling silver jewelry wire is hard to find locally, but I'm always surprised by how easy it is to find in the Internet. And it's one of those purchases that you might as well make online.
Why? We're not talking about a product that varies widely from source to source. Sterling silver wire is basically sterling silver wire, no matter where you find it. It's .925 by definition - an alloy of at least 92.5% pure silver, the rest being another metal or metals, like copper. It will almost always be sold in reels that you'll have to straighten as you use it. (Use your fingers or a flat nose pliers.)
Sterling silver wire is sold in gauges. The lower the gauge, the thicker the wire. For earwires, wire wrapping, pendants and wire sculpture, choose 18-24 gauge sterling silver wire. 20 gauge round half-hard wire is a standard width for making earwires, wire-wrapping beads, and most uses. For knitting, chose 26 gauge and higher.
Sterling silver wire is either dead soft or half hard. Dead soft means soft, but that doesn't translate to "easy to work." Half hard is easier to work with for the beginner. Half hard jewelry wire holds its shape better, which means you're less likely to mess it up. Learn more about jewelry wire gauges, shapes and hardness.
You may find online sources of wholesale sterling silver jewelry wire to be more or less equal in quality. Check the prices; they, not the quality of the drawn wire, are what differs from store to store.
As an Amazon.com Associate, I now offer sterling silver jewelry wire in my A-Store. I've bought wholesale sterling silver jewelry wire from Artbeads, Rio Grande, Fire Mountain Gems, Santa Fe Jeweler's Supply, and more sources I can't even remember now. I don't have a favorite - wire is pretty much wire. (Now, check with me later about turquoise. I can definitely point you to sources for fine turquoise beads.)
If you are going to be purchasing jewelry wire repeatedly, get yourself a wire gauge. A wire gauge allows you to measure the wire you receive to make sure it's the right thickness. Usually it's correct. But every once in a while...
Once - and luckily only once, out of many satisfactory orders - I placed an order at Santa Fe Jeweler's Supply for several sizes of wholesale sterling silver wire and ended up with - I was pretty sure - one reel the wrong gauge - 22 instead of 20 gauge. But since I didn't have a wire gauge, I couldn't confirm it, and I didn't ask for a return. I may have been wrong, I may have been right.
But a wire gauge is really necessary for peace of mind if you've got a suspicious nature like I do. It's all too easy to make mistakes.
Aside from that cautionary tale, I've never had a problem ordering wire online. It came in good condition, never kinked or work hardened, and the quality was great.
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